Dubai: While it's almost never advisable to tip people in the educational, medical, or professional fields, like teachers, psychologists, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, contractors and large business owners, there are other professions wherein you can express your appreciation for the service you received.
Standard tipping amounts on average range from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, with anything above 20 per cent indicating excellent service. But this does vary, especially at the start of the current new decade, when there are more services than ever to tip on, and lots of considerations to take into account.
Rules for tipping – otherwise known as gratuity – vary by country, by region, and by scenario, and you may be in a country wherein tipping is customary and required, appreciated but not expected, or virtually unheard of.
A modest rounding up of the bill may be fine in some places and insufficient in others. A few small currency notes left on a table might be gladly picked up by housecleaning staff in one hotel and scrupulously shunned elsewhere.
That's why we've spelled out guidelines for the most common tipping situations in several key countries across the world. Keep in mind, however, that it is only a guide – tipping is a reward for good service, and in the end the value is up to you.
This will not only enable you to be better prepared when you travel to these countries, but also help you budget or financially plan out beforehand a cost-effective way forward, so as to not lose money tipping unnecessarily generous amounts or being unprepared to tip the required or expected amount.
General tipping trends widely observed worldwide
Remember not every country has a culture of tipping. For instance, generally, consumers don't tip people in China, Japan, Denmark or Belgium, just to name a few countries.
Broadly speaking, research has shown that across Asia and the Pacific, special care must be taken to insure that your well-meaning gesture is not taken as insulting. If you are unsure, it is best not to tip. If possible, observe the locals and follow their lead.
In Australia, research shows that generally people do not tend to tip as much as other countries like the US. While you’re free to leave some change behind as a thank you, you generally won’t get the stink-eye from someone in customer service if you don’t.
Across Europe, it is widely observed that many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill. In most cases, an additional tip is unnecessary. If no service charge is added to your bill 10 per cent is the general rule for restaurant service, and for a porter at the hotel you are staying at, a dollar (about Dh4) per bag will be appreciated.
On the other hand across countries in the Middle East or Africa, those who provide services tend to reach out for a tip more often, but it’s customary to tip in smaller amounts, according to luxury and lifestyle travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler. However, check the bill to see if a service charge is part of the total. If it is but you want to leave more, add an additional 5 to 10 per cent, not more.
In Central or South America, many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill. If not, 10 per cent is the general rule for restaurant service, and at the hotel you are staying, a dollar per bag for the porter is considered the norm.
TripAdvisor recommends leaving a 15 to 20 per cent tip when you eat at restaurants or take a cab. Other services like removalists (businesses that helps people move their goods from one place to another) and valet attendants might expect a tip of about $10 (Dh36) per service, while more repetitive tasks (like bag carriers and coat checkers) usually receive $1-3 (Dh4 to Dh12) per task.
Tipping is an important part of most working cultures, and these tips are usually given in cash, so make sure you carry some extra with you. Some sites recommend only not tipping if the service you received was particularly poor, and if your server goes above and beyond then make sure you let them know by giving them a little extra.
Being financially flexible when tipping
When it comes to tipping, it’s vital to be financially flexible. The more difficult the task, the bigger the gratuity should be. Tipping should be scaled to the service, matter experts often reiterate.
For example, if it is cold, rainy, extremely sunny, if it is something hard to procure, if it is heavy, bulky, difficult, then preferably tip more. Here are a few more hard and fast rules for giving gratuities:
Default on the side of generosity: Renowned American personal finance guru Dave Ramsey views that when in doubt, be generous, and if you’re in a good financial position, be “outrageously generous”. Ramsey adds that if you can’t afford to tip, acknowledge your appreciation until your finances improve, then give a tip.
Cash isn’t necessarily king now: During the pandemic, many places discourage, or even forbid, paying by cash, which is why many have resorted to tipping through credit cards. Moreover, multiple statistics show says that people tend to leave bigger tips when they use credit cards.
If people pay with a credit card, workers will be tipped more. You can also ask the person if they prefer to be tipped via a peer-to-peer payment platform. If you do tip with cash, you can avoid handing it to the person by putting it in an envelope and leaving it for them.
Some pointers to keep in mind is, firstly, don’t regard tipping as optional as many people who work for tips rely on them to earn a living. Secondly, tip according to the service provided. You wouldn’t tip a restaurant worker who delivers a meal to your car more than you would someone who loaded heavy building materials into the back of your car.
What do experts say about budgeting for tipping?
Ramsey Solutions, financial consultancy firm founded by Ramsey, notes that tipping costs “seem like extras at first, but they’re actually part of it all – and you need to budget for the full cost of the service”.
Research also shows that one thing trickier for many people is knowing when to tip with cash or a credit card.
In many situations, if you pay with a credit card, you can add a tip to your bill, putting the charge on your card along with the charge for the meal or service, but tipping with a credit card isn’t always the best option for the service-worker or person receiving the tip.
First, there can be a delay in processing credit card tips, so the workers may have to wait until the next payday to receive the money.
Second, restaurants or employers must pay credit card companies a percentage for each transaction, and some government regulations allow employers to take that percentage out of employee tips.
Third, if you’re always relying on a credit card (or debit card) to tip, you may miss out on the opportunity to tip workers where no credit card transaction takes place – for example, movers or valets.
When is it better to tip using your card?
If tipping in cash means leaving a smaller tip or no tip at all, put the tip on your card. Credit card fees and delayed payment aside, any service worker will take a larger tip on a credit card over a smaller one in cash.
In the situations where putting a tip on a credit card truly isn’t an option, like tipping valets, housekeeping, movers etc., and you don’t have a single dirham on you, consider asking if they use any money-sharing service.
Calculating tips before or after value-added tax (or VAT)
The general standard is to calculate how much of a tip you'll leave a server based on the cost of the meal, excluding tax (termed value-added tax or VAT in most countries). For instance, if the meal itself cost Dh20 and the tax was Dh2, you would leave a tip based just on the Dh20.
However, if you want to be particularly generous, you can use the cost of the total bill, inclusive of tax, to calculate the tip, says US-based free restaurant reservation system TableAgent.
"Servers have to pay tax on their tip as well as share the tip with other support staff members. Many people feel that giving tip after the tax amount is fair, ensuring that their server receives a larger amount," the website explains.